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30.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Going tribal Permalink to this item

Not every news story can be encapsulated in a tweet-length headline, but this looks like one that can: Facebook to Change News Feed to Focus on Friends and Family.

Makes sense to me. That's most of what I go to Facebook for anyway, and the audience for most of what I post there. Well, ok, there's the political stuff too, but for standing on a soapbox and shouting I HAVE A NEW BLOG POST UP, Twitter suffices. (Except... there's a lot more noise in that medium, isn't there? Everybody shouting and all.)

This is actually news to me: "[H]undreds of news media sites ... have come to rely on Facebook" and "its news feed, the company’s marquee feature that is seen by more than 1.65 billion users every month." Not the 20+ percent of the world's population (and "some 44% of adults in the U.S." who regularly read news content) on Facebook, I knew that. But the relying.

"The changes will affect all types of content posted by publishers, including links, videos, live videos and photos. Facebook said it expected a drop in reach and referral traffic for publishers whose audience comes primarily to content posted by the publisher’s official Facebook page. Facebook plans to start making the changes as soon as this week.

"It will have less of an impact, however, if most of a publisher’s traffic comes from individual users sharing and commenting on their stories and videos. As has long been the case, publisher content that your friends interact with will appear higher in the feed compared to posts shared directly by a publisher."

Not sure how "author" and "publisher" work there; if Gail Collins, or Terry Gross, or Timothy Egan shares a link to their work on nytimes or npr, is that a "publisher"? I think (but only Facebook really knows) I'm a lot more likely to follow the "friend shared" links than the publisher links. Nevertheless, this is big, big news in the publishing world:

"[M]ore than 40 percent of referral traffic to news sites comes from Facebook, according to data from, a digital publishing analytics company."

Also, who knew that Facebook has a "newsroom" (a blog running on WordPress, seriously?!) where their VP of Product Management, News Feed could write about Building a Better News Feed for You and "News Feed Values." Your feed should inform and entertain, he says. And the blockbuster, "FRIENDS AND FAMILY COME FIRST." I like this, under the last section, CONSTANT ITERATION, "We view our work as only 1 percent finished — and are dedicated to improving along the way."

Last night's Newshour had a segment with Jeffrey Brown talking to author Sebastian Junger, about his new book, “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging” in which the only mention of Facebook was him pointing out that just because you have a lot of "friends" on it doesn't mean you're good.

"You’re actually not good. And I’m not an expert in this, but from what I studied for my book, what you need is to feel people, smell them, hear them, feel them around you."

"I mean, that’s the human connection that we evolved for, for hundreds of thousands of years. The Internet doesn’t provide that."

Yesterday's photo

The suburb he grew up in was apparently lonelier than mine, which I couldn't imagine characterizing as "the loneliest place in the world." School, church, the neighborhood, the Lincoln Park pool, there were many places full of people I didn't know and who didn't know me, but lots of my time was spent in amply tribal settings. If anything, I sought solitude from all that, for balance.

I am interested to see more in the book, but the take-away from the too-short news interview, that affluence is detrimental to psychological health, and crisis brings us together is a hell of a way to run a railroad. Never mind the steady stream of mass shootings and terrorist attacks, at home and abroad, if you look at America's signal human-caused crisis of 9/11, how long did our collective psychological health improve? A drop in New York City's suicide and crime rates is good, but a year and a half later, we invaded Iraq, out of some serious, embedded psychological problem in our society, expressed through the willingness to inflict mayhem on millions of people we don't know in response to transgression against hundreds we do, and thousands we imagine part of our "tribe."

The great camaraderie of tribes of warriors is an interesting thing to study as history, psychology, and anthropology, but not exactly a way forward, is it? Donald Trump's tribal following is on the road to being an unruly racist mob a lot sooner than they'll stumble upon Greatness (let alone Civility).

Maybe Facebook can figure out how to shift from the daily news, to friends and family, cat and flower pictures to chill out the tireless flamage, blather and spew. The "enemies filter," let's say. They don't need to outright censor anyone, just, ah, slow it down, chill it out, turn it down from 11 to 2 or 3. Without requiring unfriending or mark-as-spam.

But is there money to be made in that? (Does Mark Zuckerberg still care about making money?)

29.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

That exciting fundraising deadline Permalink to this item

Politifact's assessment

Lyin' Doofus Drumpf wants me (and everyone else on Conservative HQ's mailing list) to "chip in" $5, $10, $20, $50, or "MORE" to "indict" his opponent in November, and by "indict" he means with the verdict of ballots. Kind of subtle for someone not accustomed to stooping to metaphor. But snarl and derision (and big buttons) are plain enough, red meat for his frothy supporters. He laughs at the idea he's being out-raised, says "I can write my campaign a check at any time (and have)."

But so far, his check-writing has been a hall of mirrors, with a sizeable chunk of other people's money going to his businesses and family members, imagine that.

"In May, the biggest-ticket item was Mr. Trump’s use of the Mar-a-Lago Club, his Florida resort, which was paid $423,000. The campaign paid $350,000 to TAG Air for his private airplanes, $125,000 to Trump Restaurants and more than $170,000 to Trump Tower, the Manhattan skyscraper that houses the campaign’s headquarters.

"Mr. Trump’s family also profited from the campaign last month, with his son Eric’s Virginia wine business taking in about $1,300.

"And Mr. Trump, who has said he will not take a salary if he is elected president, paid himself $3,085 in May. The disbursements are related to travel expenses, according to the filings."

Which makes you wonder... why does a multi-billionaire have to pay himself a couple of three thousand dollars? "Because he can" is one answer, I guess, but is the guy a kleptomaniac as well as a liar and a cheat?

Talk to the veterans and his creditors and the employees of all those brilliant businesses he blew up, holding empty bags and promises from "one of the most tightfisted billionaires since Scrooge McDuck," and double-check your receipts.

The Doofus' pitch is that he'll MAKE FUNDRAISING AN ISSUE in the campaign. With your money. Every bit as good a bet as visiting one of his casinos. (Does he still have any casinos? Nope; after two bankruptcies, Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc. is now a subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises, with only one property.)

At least we can have some fun at his expense. News that Trump finished May with a paltry $1.3 million in cash on hand (compared to Hillary Clinton’s $42 million), spawned the Twitter hashtag #TrumpSoPoor, "with commenters tweeting that Mr. Trump’s campaign was so broke he could no longer afford exclamation marks (“SAD”); that his wall with Mexico would be reduced to a “get off my lawn” sign; that even his fact checks were bouncing."

28.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

(6-28) Madtown Permalink to this item

A good ride in. Took the scenic route south over the hills & into the wind. Down & across the sandy Wisconsin to a picnic brkfst in Muscoda. Along the flats to Avoca where two freaks turned me on to a swimming hole in Lone Rock. A spring-fed backwater, shallow but delightully cold. After that, back across & south to C. My crank was making ominous noises (since Mpls.St.P) but it made it. Saw Taliesin & snuck in for a free tour. The scale was pleasing & the design organic. My first inside of FLW. 14 was flat & fast with a tailwind, but somewhat hectic (white line fever). Junk food junkie, but the A&W was worth it. Into the big city, went to the Terrace and watched the blue flag sailing, had a beer & went to Bob's. We drove his junker, had beer & burgers. Waters & Nancy came & we went to the Warehouse Beer Garden, got drunk & went up to the craziness on the square. Late nice pizza crash till dawn.

Map of day 24

It was the day after by the time I got to writing this down, but about the day's ride on the 28th. It felt like arriving home, where I'd lived from late summer '74 to late summer '75, two semesters and summer school at the University of Wisconsin. Getting back together with home-state friends after my year in the wild west and weeks on the road was definitely a celebratory occasion. I was ahead of my planned schedule (to arrive in Milwaukee before the 4th of July), so took a couple days off to hang out with friends in Madison.

The "Terrace" is part of the Student Union, overlooking Lake Mendota, and adjacent to the Hoofers Sailing Club where I'd learned to sail and taught sailing the summer before. "Blue flag" = "heavy weather," winds 18-30 mph, in which you needed a "heavy weather rating" to take out a boat. The square would have been Capitol Square, in the middle of the isthmus.

After 24 days riding (and a little help from Rip Van Winkle), I'd covered 1,641 miles, averaging 68.3 per day.

27.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

(6-27) Richland Center Permalink to this item

Where am I? Two days in the mountains of Wis. Stayed by some Baptists. They gave bkfst w/devotions (see *). The morning felt good & I did 19 to Fountain City & Gatorade, eggs in Centerville & laziness to Trempeleau. The bakery is excellent & I went to the park. Thought I'd camp but it was not inviting ($2.75). Climbed the mountains instead. Wis. forest giant ferns black raspberries the view. Made it as far as Holman, a "small" co. park that was wild & beautiful. Went to Smokies after a swim & played pinball. Met a bunch of former JD's thru Phoenix & went out & talked to Greg's foster father—a 77 yr. old Norwegian Wis. farmer. Lost a sock till AM in the dark. Tornadoes did not come. This morning to La Crosse. A row of bars, quiet Sunday, a giant six at Heilmann's Westy's Norwegian café & bakery is worth a stop. Try graham cracker creme pie. Out of Viroqua the road turned gravel & I put on a shirt in Bosstown (too late). From above there ("just over the next hill") it was mostly down out of the "driftless" area to Richland Center. 3 brown tools at the Legion (bartender controls the locked door) and to the park. A boat builder who lives up here on this ridge above town rescued me from a psychedelic sky. Purple thunderstorm (I first saw the thunderheads this morning, off to the south), red sky & sunse and a red rainbow before the storm. It was arching as the sun set & we got here, just ahead of the rain. A nice storm. Checked out the boat and food and so to bed.

Map of days 22 and 23

It may not all make sense to you; it certainly doesn't to me. I have no idea where that asterisk I told myself to see went to, for starters. I can't find the unnamed park I camped at; La Crosse Co. has a couple of big ones (Goose Island—"Your Gonna Love It!" [sic]—now has 400 campsites; Veterans Memorial 120), and a lot of Lake Onalaska. Holmen, Midway, Onalaska and La Crosse are now conurbated. The woods east of Deerwood Park, maybe.

"JD" is not juris doctor. The "giant six" was the impressive World's Largest Six Pack in downtown La Crosse, then "Heileman's Old Style," now "La Crosse Lager" if that page is up to date. "Driftless" is about glaciers, or the lack of thereof, and the silt, clay, sand, gravel, and boulders (collectively, "drift") that weren't left behind where they didn't go. Mostly in SE Wisconsin, the so-called Paleozoic Plateau is carved by deep river valleys. "Brown tools" were a joke from when I was rebuilding my sister's old Bridgestone for my buddy Bob Purman, for beer. "Pass the brown tool," I'd instruct my eager assistant.

The general food obsession is clear enough, and justified for cross-country riding. That pre-storm evening in Richland Center's park was where I had my first avocado, fresh from the grocery store, and... how does one eat an avocado? I had no idea, so I just munched down the soft insides like a mango or something. Seemed a bit rich, but I could use the calories. I got a ride to the old farm with the barn repurposed to boats, and had no idea where I was spending the night, under a roof out of the rain, but no worries for finding the road the next morning.

Speaking of long distance travel Permalink to this item

Map of the Stanford trip

One of those "if you have to ask how much it costs, you probably can't afford it" offers from Stanford Travel/Study came in today. The trips that now look "modest" by comparison all seemed way expensive to me, but this immodest one is the capper: The World Less Known: Expedition by Private Jet. Ten countries in 25 days.

"Our fully customized private Boeing 757 is ideally suited for this expedition, as its long-range capabilities allow us to fly direct to destinations, avoid layovers and land in smaller airports that are closer to hard-to-reach destinations. Its custom interior generously accommodates just 46 guests in spacious two-by-two, flat-bed leather seats—in a plane that was built to accommodate 233 passengers! Our talented expedition staff, flight crew and trip doctor are with us every step of the way to ensure that our experience is extraordinary."

I was reading through the terms and laughing at the price when I thought the $10,000 deposit and $25,000 second payment was the total. But wait, there's more! It's $115,000 all-in. The trip of a lifetime, eh, with a $4,600/person/day burn rate. (They encourage the cost-conscious non-Alumni Association member to join with a +$300 nonmember charge.)

I was just about set to sign up, but this: coming back from Paris, you have to fly commercial?! No way.

25.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

(6-25) 3 weeks out near Alma, Wis. Permalink to this item

My kind of low = clear & sunny w/ a west wind Tues. A.M. So nice to have it behind. Flew to Hastings, the hill before was a grand view & elated coast to town. Look ma no hands. Over & east of the Mississippi, up to the crest of the "point" with a panorama of God's country. Home sweet. Down & across the St. Croix into Prescott. Yeee haaaa.

I chatted for a while & bought gorp, headed out on County Q into the hills of Wisconsin. Bigger than my memory. Lush with growth. Seemed like the road was barely able to get through the green. Yes, the hills were steep, finally to a Palouse like plain, only w/ the picturesque Wisconsin farms. Across & finally down through Diamond Bluffs and along the Great River Road. Watched eagles (hawks?) sailing in the drafts. After Bay City & making the mistake of trusting a built-in gage & a Japanese tube (= BANG), back up into it. Even taller bluffs & thru the cliff town of Maiden Rock. Stopped by the wayside at Maiden Rock (the rock, that is) & Chuck & Rita, two lovely people from Montana (55 or more physically, they were as spry as 25 year-old newlyweds) turned me on to bar-b-q burgers w/ potatoes, peas and mushrooms. Ahh, an evening ride past more towering rock faces, over Chippewa River (which formed Pepin Lake = sailboats) and here to the Gun Club campground.

Map of day 21

The "point" mentioned is what's formed by the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers coming together, the former coming south as the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, and giving itself and that task over to the big river.

I wouldn't have had much memory of "far west" Wisconsin in any case; but a boyhood dream shared with a few friends to "bicycle around the state," on its network of really lovely county roads. I'd got as far as buying the book of county maps, but of course didn't have that with me, now that the dream was coming true. Route-finding didn't seem a problem, on the trail and smelling the barn (so to speak). Don't see County Q on the map today; there's QQ, but Wis. 35 looks more like what I remember, the climb up to get over the 7 miles of too-vertical bluffs above the town of Diamond Bluff.

The Rod & Gun Club is still going, but the campground is now called Riecks Park, on the marshland at the mouth of the Buffalo River. (Thanks to the person who responds to inquiries on the club's Facebook page.) Kind of fascinating to browse the geology of the area with Google Maps, even though it doesn't show that tributary's name. Wikipedia helped, without a map included, but this evocative text: "For the last 5 miles of the Buffalo's course, it is surrounded by marshland, before emptying into Rieck's Lake, a migratory stopover for thousands of tundra swans and other waterfowl. Rieck's Lake empties out into a riverine lake, called Buffalo Slough, part of Pool 4 on the Mississippi River." Not sure if this photo is from that spot, but it could be.

Photo from 1976

24.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The truth is out there. Way out there Permalink to this item

The semi-major axis of our solar system's outer known planet (Neptune) is just over 30 astronomical units (AU), 4.5 billion km. That is of course 30 times earth's orbital radius of 1 AU. So about yay big, 60 AU across. We have eight planets, 5 dwarf planets recognized by the IAU (those bodies with "self-gravity is sufficient to achieve hydrostatic equilibrium and form an ellipsoidal shape" per Wikipedia), and possibly several hundred altogether, and hundreds of thousands of "small Solar System bodies."

Illustration by Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

There might be a real, big, planet #9 further out. Not another dwarf like Eris, Pluto, Makemake, 2007 OR10 or Haumea, Quaoar, Sedna, Orcus, 2002 MS4 or Ceres, but something Neptune-sized.

The American Astronomical Society has an update on Planet Nine. Caltech's Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown (who presented the evidence for there being a planet, in January) figure that "the allowed orbits for Planet Nine have perihelia of ~150–350 AU, semimajor axes of ~380–980 AU, and masses of ~5–20 Earth masses." (Neptune has a bit more than 17 times Earth's mass.)

In other words, thinking about big old planets spinning around the sun, we need to widen our horizon by a factor of ten, at least. Maybe 30.

Trumpsubstantiation Permalink to this item

Jonathan Chait is pleased that the New York Times has finally stopped repeating the Trump Steaks lie, and that, well, he's got a reason to exercise his "minor fixation" with the March incident in which Trump appeared with a dodgy pile of meat.

TV critic James Poniewozik was on the scent from the get-go, and "strongly implied that the slabs of meat on display were not Trump Steaks," but then the NYT newshounds apparently wandered off the trail. Love the prose, quoted by Chait:

Were the “Trump Steaks” the same product Mr. Trump once sold through the Sharper Image catalog? … Apparently not, but then again this contest, if not Mr. Trump’s entire career, has been about appearance versus reality, or the ability of appearances to create their own reality. ... Branding, Mr. Trump’s specialty, is the capitalist version of transubstantiation. The businessman-celebrity bestows his blessing on a humble slab of meat and lo, it becomes a Trump Steak.

Great England Permalink to this item

Interesting times after the United Kingdom's vote yesterday, leaving us to sort out who's in what anymore. The odds-makers were favoring the status quo, the markets were ebullient ahead of what was assumed would be an endorsement of business as usual, but 52% of British voters ("British," is that right?) let out a rebel yell, and ay yi yi. Richard Eskow deems it "a major crack in the edifice of globalization, and the neoliberal order that has dominated the world’s economy since the end of World War II."

I'm not quite old enough to know anything else, so now what?! Deglobalization? Are we all going to go back to living in caves and tents? It's not as if the last 70 years of economic history is a single story. After a couple of atom bombs shocked the world out of global conflagration for the time being, a lot of the world's economies had an unprecedented boom, a tide that lifted all but the leakiest of (first world) boats.

"[P]oisonous weeds are just as likely as green shoots to grow up through those cracks. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy: Those who make constructive evolution impossible may be making destructive devolution inevitable."

Whether we're headed for construction, or deconstruction, it's hard to argue against his observation that "elites are apparently more out of touch with the citizens of the industrialized world than at any time in modern memory." People know when they're being cheated. (How bizarrely ironic in that case that the U.S.'s rebel-yell candidate is (a) in the supposedly "conservative" party and (b) Donald Trump, a man with a gold-plated fortune built on bluster and cheating.)

The contest "was largely won by stirring up bigotry against immigrants, cloaked in flimsy arguments about excessive regulation." Gee that sounds familiar, where have I heard that before? "Legitimate economic grievances were channeled into nationalist hostility."

While there's still a British Broadcasting Company, we might as well have a look at its analysis of the whys and wherefores in its quaint tongue. "Public stop listening to PM," and David Cameron's personal reputation staked on the outcome went through the heart of his political future. "Labour fail to connect with voters" and "Big beasts - Boris Johnson and Michael Gove" "really put rocket boosters under the [Leave] campaign." "Older voters flock to polls" and "Europe always slightly alien."

The Beeb's estimate of how Brexit will affect personal finances sounds like it's all bad news. Cheaper for anyone wanting to go a-touristing in the formerly united kingdom. Scotland's "highly likely" to have another independence vote, because they'd like to stay united with Europe. (Independence ain't what it used to be.) The EU says alright then, get the hell out without delay. The only happy face in the BBC photoessay of reactions is, god help us, Donald Trump's. Just coincidentally, he's over in Scotland flogging some business deal and his family connection for photo ops, apparently oblivious to the fact that Scotland isn't as crazy about him, or Brexit as the other countries are. (Not to mention Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's assessment of Trump's comments on Muslims, described as "repugnant and offensive," just like the man who made them.) For its part, Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen stripped the Donald of an honorary degree they'd given him earlier this year.

In financial markets, the Pound got whacked along with the FTSE (and our globalized stocks). The pain starts without delay, while the benefits... are there benefits? Seems unlikely. A falling tide drops all boats.

(6-24) by the Minnesota River (the state park), Twin Cities Permalink to this item

US 12 was a battle with the trucks so we headed NE & found a beautiful back road along a refuge. Misty hills & deciduous trees. Went down 55 into strong winds. One light shower on 12 but it was "dry" when we split up. They for a motel, me to the city. I rode in in a shower & looked for refuge. I ended up downtown & soaked. Marvelled at the arch[itecture], esp. the suusepension bldg. Went to the Univ. & had a gyro & shopped in Dinkytown. West River Road out, a nice back way follows the Mississippi. Went across the Mendota Bridge, then back & down to the state park. They said I could't but I am. The rain held off till I was set up. How nice. After all that openness, the big city is very strange. Terribly fast pace & cold people. How do they do it? Wisconsin tomorrow! (Or maybe rain).

Gary: Personable, friendly, bohemian, Chicagoan, baseball fan, 4 bike trips on his Varsity. Likes people & food. Marty: Secretive, hard-headed, stubborn, likes to whine & eat. A Gemini who thinks he is training for the revolution but cannot help being a city boy. So old & yet so young. Gary, the Taurus is the leader & the knowing although 3 yrs. junior.

Mendota Bridge, Minneapolis

Ah, if only we'd had Google Maps to click on for "bicycling" directions, we would've gone south to Winsted and via Watertown and Wayzata on the Luce Line State Trail (if the abandoned C&NW RR ROW had been turned into a trail 6 years after the state bought it) around Lake Minnetonka, picked up MN-55 from that, then down to the Mississippi and up the Minnesota into Ft. Snelling. (But... "no camping," why would we think to go there?) For driving directions, Google My Maps won't let me put a trace on some of the route I took. And for bicycling, it does its damndest to get us off the highway we did take. Sensible, but historically inaccurate. At any rate, the "US 12 is pretty straight across the country" concept finally broke down near the big city, and the map is more approximate than usual.

Approx. map of day 20

The state park and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge are above the Mendota bridge and the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi, and "in bottomland below busy highways and flightpaths" according to Wikipedia. Don't remember the airport at all, but it wouldn't have been quite so busy back in 1976? Today's "recreation" list includes bicycling on 5 miles of pavement and 10 miles of gravel, and No Camping. Unless you want to hide somewhere in the swampy forest. The "satellite" view today makes it hard to imagine a big enough, dry enough spot to hide out, but I was there.

I would learn long after the fact that some days after we split up, Marty got clipped by a big right-hand mirror and had a serious head injury that ended their trip. None of us were sporting helmets back then.

23.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

(6-23) Willmar, Minnesota Permalink to this item

Stayed at the mushroom wayside in S.D. after a primo feast. Next morning, hit Minnesota ("L'Etoile du Nord") and climbed the hill out twice. Talked to Don back home and finally got a good tube. We worked E & SE into SE winds. 62 miles was plenty. Last night in Kerkhoven (church home) was fine. Met 2 Christians who gave us showers. Gary & I climbed the H2O tower but the mayor saw us & the cop got us down. Nice bar tho. Dice for the beer.

Howard Lake One more fine town. Yesterday was into the wind, but we're getting used to that. Lot of clouds kept it pleasantly cool. A trucker pimps us & then calls the cops. What an asshole. The scenery is improving... rolling hills & lakes. A spotlight tower gave us the evening view. Looks like rain today. E wind.

Map of days 18 and 19

[My journal skipped 6-22, and apparently I wrote about "yesterday" in transit, before we rode to Howard Lake for the night. No idea what "mushroom wayside" was about, or why the hill had to be climbed twice. Milbank is 10 miles from the S.D./Minn. border, where Big Stone City (S.D.) sits at the end of 26-mile-long Big Stone Lake, one of a series along the meandering Minnesota River. I remember camping in the city park in Kerkhoven, and the nice people who lived next to it who let us use their shower. Also, finding out that the mayor's house has a really good view of the town's water tower.

No memory of the trucker incident (clouded by memories of too many conflicts with drivers who don't think bicyclists should be on any road), but traffic was getting more intense as we approached the Twin Cities. The small town of Howard Lake is just 40 miles from the center of Minneapolis, 1,318 miles and 19 days from Arny's Trailer Court.

Somewhere in Minnesota (I think), there was this, maybe not the world's biggest ball of twine at the time, but big enough to get me to pull over and check it out, and expose one of my precious bits of film. The toilet sign was "EMERGENCY ONLY."

Quirky outdoor museum in a small Minnesota town

Nuff said! Permalink to this item

When you've voted 63 times to repeal Obamacare then call #DemocraticSitIn to end gun violence a "publicity stunt"

— The Daily Edge (@TheDailyEdge) June 23, 2016

21.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

(Summer solstice) Milbank Permalink to this item

Gary & I climbed the water tower last night—scary concave up & a fine view. The morning was delightfully cool with clouds. Rode thru the Coteau Hills after a gorge breakfast. I took a side trip to the Blue Cloud Abbey. Very beautiful architecture and some amazing plants. Coming down to the flats against strong S wind & into oppresive heat. Saved by a root beer float. Bought a tire & tube & we're staying for dinner. Town is too big for its size.

Map of day 17

[More about Blue Cloud Abbey, from South Dakota Magazine, four years ago, when the membership aged out: All Good Things Must End.

"When the monks first proposed locating near Marvin, their decidedly non-Catholic neighbors were leery of such a papist incursion. A town hall style meeting was called, with speaker after speaker warning of the most dire consequences. This sentiment almost carried the day until a highly respected elder gave this ringing endorsement: 'Let's give the sonsofbitches a chance.'

"Just over sixty years later, I dare say, there is nothing but sadness in the neighborhood at their departure."

The facility, at least, has been revived as The Abbey of the Hills Inn & Retreat Center.]

MAKE.MONEY.FAST Permalink to this item

It can't be easy making a living as a writer. I've enjoyed doing a lot of writing over the years, occasionally getting published, and almost never getting paid for anything. When Dan Lyons' job at Newsweek—that staple periodical of my parents' home when I was growing up—disappeared, not long before the magazine went virtual and disappeared itself, he landed in a job as "Marketing Fellow" at startup whose primary business was marketing, and the meta-marketing business model of every startup these days:

"Grow fast, lose money, go public, get rich."

(As an aside, I see from the Wikipedia entry for Newsweek, which unlike the one for HubSpot, is not flagged as having "content that is written like an advertisement," the magazine is improbably back in print.)

As one of the late-comers and rank and file, Lyons was not among the 1% target for the last step of that 4 step recipe. (Chapter 12: The New Work: Employees as Widgets.) The book about his experience at HubSpot is the best thing he got out of the experience, it looks like. It paid a lot better than his share of the IPO, and it provides those of us on the outside with an important look inside the emperor's clothing-optional new economy. Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble is a great read.

As ever, I like to check the worst reviews on Amazon. One verified purchaser and 1-star giver "Had high hopes and am very dissapointed" [sic], and tells us how in a dozen paragraphs that there's no way I'm going to actually read, but wrapping up with "Honestly, I’m on page 66 and I don’t know if I can continue reading this book." (So shut up already.) Other 1-star headlines include He sounds like a grumpy old man," "Dimwitted & Whiney," "Wow, this guy is SUPER bitter," and from somebody at Cliff's Notes maybe, "Read the excerpt, skip the book." But 85% of 423 reviewers so far have given it 4 or 5 stars. Me, I'm putting it on my reading list because (imho) it's well-written, fascinating, horrific, true, personal, funny, and revealing, about the author and the strange, frothy world of a tech bubble #2 startup.

E.'s highly rated 3-star review complains that "the author seems to be worse than the people he's writing about," ihho, which went off on Lyons' "negative energy" and "absolutely hating everyone with a passion, from day one, because they're younger than him and he's a former-journalist big shot" which is, did we really read the same book? "The author is completely myopic," E. complains, completely myopically. (Don't tell me, let me guess, you're not 50-something, are you?) A couple of the comments on E.'s review are worth reading, at least.

You don't have to know that Lyons was entertaining as "Fake Steve Jobs" before he lost his cover for that (and, uh, Jobs died), but it doesn't hurt. If you don't want the whole inside look at the real-life version of The Office (or Office Space, mentioned a couple times, but I haven't seen it), you can cut to the chase of the 18-page epilogue to see how things turned out between his "graduation" and the book coming out. Or (spoiler alert!) Curt Woodward's review, or the short Boston Globe article about the FBI investigation following the Chief Marketing Officer's getting fired, a VP quitting and the CEO getting fined, followed by... "business" as usual. As seen on the NYSE, HubSpot is valued at most of $2 billion in spite of continuing to lose gobs of money ($46 million last year), but hey, revenue is still climbing!

The web coverage of this meta-marketing enterprise and its financials is interesting. One vapid report touting its "growth drivers" said William Blair (apparently a company, not a person; their site has a dropdown menu WHO ARE YOU? featured more prominently than the "About" link) initiated coverage at "Outperform" while garbly foo from says "price target maintained to $0 as announced today by William Blair." After reading the book, that sounds like a good target, but what William Blair & Co. actually posted was that everything's coming up roses and you should get you some.

“Both our bottom-up and top-down market sizing estimates peg HubSpot’s total addressable market (TAM) at roughly $18 billion, validating our belief that the midmarket opportunity alone can support several more years of 30%-plus growth.”

In revenue that would be, with no mention of profit. Can HubSpot actually make money marketing marketing? Did analyst Bhavan Suri read Lyons' book before saying

“Not only did HubSpot coin the term ‘inbound marketing,’ but the company’s co-founders also literally wrote the book on inbound marketing, evidenced by HubSpot’s dominant position at the top of the marketing funnel, vast network of agency partners, and industry-leading customer rankings. We believe that HubSpot has developed a cost-efficient method of acquiring and retaining customers in the midmarket, while many other vendors have shifted their focus further upmarket.”

Doesn't sound like he did. Still plenty of Kool-Aid to go around, kids.

(For those in the audience not old enough to remember, which would seem to include most of HubSpot's employees, the post headline comes from the late '80s dawn of spam.)

Solstice Permanent URL to this day's entry

One gob-smacking year Permalink to this item

It's still just a bit early for Trump campaign retrospectives, and after the last 12 months, who knows what's in store for the next 5, but most of all I'm struck by the metaphorical perfection of the outright catastrophe of this man trying to act "presidential" being "launched" with a ride down an escalator.

"While he could manage a stunning turnaround, at the moment Trump seems to have put together one of the worst presidential campaigns in history."

WaPo and its reporters (who, sure, are laying the groundwork for that book they're whipping up) invite us to "let’s take a look at all the major disadvantages Trump faces as we head toward the conventions." A "comically small number" of paid staff around the country. Not enough money! But mostly "a candidate with a lethal combination of dreadful strategic instincts and absolute certainty of his own brilliance." Call it the Dunning-Kruger effect's run for the presidency.

(6-20) Webster Permalink to this item

Hard work today with SSW-S winds. Rode with the crazy brothers from Chi. No clouds / hot sun. Two good restaurant meals and a swim in the park. "Make yourself at home"

Map of day 16

[Coming in to the land of poor drainage, looks like a couple thousand lakes scattered from Lake City, through Watertown and down to Sioux Falls. I see from the SD Department of Environment and Natural Resources that going through Aberdeen was crossing the valley that was once under "Lake Dakota" and then into Late and Early Wisconsin Glacial Sediments.

I keep wishing I'd taken more pictures. One of Gary and Marty would be great to have, for example. What was I thinking? Maybe I was thinking of the first time I headed west, three years earlier, and clicked off 8 big rolls of... really unremarkable snapshots, mostly, and a lot of index finger closeups. And it was expensive to have film developed and prints made. This was not the right way to economize, though. If I could do it all again, I would get a better camera and take a lot more pictures.]

Smack in the middle Permalink to this item

Contrary to what you might stumble upon in Facebook, the full moon on the solstice isn't as rare as "not happened in more than 70 years and will not happend again until 2094." Since the moon's full about every 29 days, the odds of it being full on any particular day are 1 in 29, not 1 in 70-something. Without working too hard, I looked up to see that in 1997, the full moon was just 1 hour and 11 min. away from the solstice, even closer than today's 11h 32m proximity. Our northern summer started at 5:02 MDT this morning (did you feel it?) and the moon's waxing until mid-afternoon, 4:34 pm MDT. (Also, hiding on the dark side of the earth while it's doing that.)

On my sailors' weather page I keep a graphic of annual and daily sunrise/sunset and full moons updated, and the harmonic convergence makes today's image jolly:

Sunrise, sunset, full moons in Boise, Idaho, 2016

It's pretty subtle, but you might notice that the top curve (time of sunset) is not centered about today: the data from the U.S. Naval Observatory show sunset at the same minute (9:30 pm MDT) in Boise from June 19 through July 2, which puts the latest sunset on June 25 or 26. It's complicated. (You also can't help but notice an optical illusion of color perception that makes the top gray stripe—between sunset and nautical twilight—look like a different, warmer gray than the bottom one, when in fact the two are identical, rgb(127,127,127).)

The Sleeping-dog policy Permalink to this item

Back when duck and cover drills were becoming passé (maybe because of the brilliant satire from Stanley Kubrick, Peter Sellers and George C. Scott), but while the Cold War was going strong, who knew we accidentally dropped three hydrogen bombs on Spain? (And a fourth into the ocean.)

"One bomb had thudded into a soft sandbank near the beach and crumpled but remained intact. Another had dropped into the ocean, where it was found unbroken two months later, after a frenzied hunt.

"The other two hit hard and exploded, leaving house-size craters on either side of the village, according to a secret Atomic Energy Commission report that has since been declassified. Built-in safeguards prevented nuclear detonations, but explosives surrounding the radioactive cores blasted a fine dust of plutonium over a patchwork of houses and fields full of ripe, red tomatoes."

1,600 troops responded to "clean it up," with pretty much no protective gear, and of course it was all hush-hush, and within a couple years, details about the incident were buried a hell of a lot better than the contamination ever was or will be. What radiation readings were taken and found alarmingly high were deemed "clearly unrealistic."

"To assure villagers their homes were safe, the Air Force sent young airmen into local houses with hand-held radiation detectors. Peter M. Ricard, then a 20-year-old cook with no training on the equipment, remembers being told to perform scans of anything locals wanted, but to keep his detector turned off."

You're supposed to let a sleeping dog lay, not lie.

The Air Force's chief of radiation testing made the call that the "alarmingly high" test "did not indicate a true health threat, but were caused by plutonium loose in the camp that contaminated the men’s hands, their clothes and everything else," which ok, that doesn't make a lot of sense when you think about it, which he did, and "persuaded the Air Force in 1966 to set up a permanent 'Plutonium Deposition Registry Board' to monitor the men for life." it was "permanent" for less than two years, met just once.

The Atomic Energy Commission noted in a 1967 memo that the chief "is not able to get the support from the Department of Defense to go after the remaining people or set up a real registry because of the Sleeping-dog policy."

Father's Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mina Lake (6-19) Permalink to this item

On another dammed creek. Felt very tired today. Slept in the shade and rode to Java for breakfast at Schlepp's Café. A good wind & I took off down 12. After Bowdle, my back tire pooped & while fixing it, Gary & Marty rode up. They chatted while I holed my tube with the iron, they left & I finally used the other cheapo tube. Had stale pie in Roscoe & raced on the flat to Ipswitch. Loaded up and rode to the party here. Hitched to "town" (Aberdeen) with Gary, rode home to dinner and beer. A nice sunset. Swimming in the lake.

Map of day 15

[Now this is flat, and U.S. 12 just about straight as a string, east of the Missouri, across the top of South Dakota. It seems like I must've seen other long distance bicyclists in two weeks on the road, but none spring to mind, and none were in the journal until I merged with this pair on their way to Chicago (where they were from). 1976 was of course the country's bicentennial year, and Bikecentennial was a thing I would have heard of. (Don't remember the map Wikipedia has there, with hatching on the "location of hilly conditions." That's cute.) My route overlapped the "official" one from Kooskia to Lolo, U.S. 12 along the Clearwater and Lochsa and over Lolo Pass.

Knowing what I know now, I see they picked a great route through Idaho from Council to Grangeville and down the south fork of the Clearwater to Kooskia; and in Montana, from Lolo south through the gorgeous Bitterroot valley, over the Beaverheads and to Yellowstone. But I only thought I was going halfway, and to Milwaukee, not D.C.

All those thousands of participants are having their 40th anniversary too, and I see there's a big party planned in Missoula for July 15. (Even though... the route didn't quite include Missoula?! That "3rd largest city" was right near the route anyway, and "Bikecentennial HQ.") Also, smaller group, do-it-yourself reunions.

The brothers were doing their own thing too, and I'm sure we compared itineraries, within the first 5 minutes, but it didn't occur to me to write anything about theirs in my journal. Here's the pictorial view of my first 15 days, and 1,072 miles.]

Map of 15 days' bike ride

The crime of poverty Permalink to this item

An op-ed isn't enough space to deal with the problem of the revival of debtors' prison in this country, but Nicholas Kristof's piece from last Sunday at least highlights the issue. Is It a Crime to Be Poor?


Never mind that "The Supreme Court has ruled that people should be jailed only when they refuse to pay, not when they can’t, and in theory safeguards protect the indigent." In practice, things run a little differently. His column is datelined Tulsa, Oklahoma, where "criminal defendants can be assessed 66 different kinds of fees," including a fee to apply for a public defender.

"An indigent person is actually billed for requesting a public defender, and if he or she does not pay, an arrest warrant is issued."

Not that the problem is limited to flyover states. Kristof cites University of Washington sociologist Alexes Harris' forthcoming book, A Pound of Flesh: Monetary Sanctions as Punishment for the Poor. From that book page on the 109 year old Russell Sage Foundation's website:

"A Pound of Flesh delves into the court practices of five counties in Washington State to illustrate the ways in which subjective sentencing shapes the practice of monetary sanctions. Judges and court clerks hold a considerable degree of discretion in the sentencing and monitoring of monetary sanctions and rely on individual values—such as personal responsibility, meritocracy, and paternalism—to determine how much and when offenders should pay. Harris shows that monetary sanctions are imposed at different rates across jurisdictions, with little or no state government oversight."

18.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Black and white Permalink to this item

I can't speak for what "millions of Americans feel," but it's remarkable to read David Brooks declare that:

"It seems blindingly obvious to say, but the spirit of religion begins with a sense that God exists. God is the primary reality, and out of that flows a set of values and experiences: prayer, praise, charity, contrition, grace and the desire to grow closer toward holiness. Sincere faith begins with humility in relation to the Almighty and a sense of being strengthened by his infinite love."

There is no religion but monotheism? The primary reality is a deity we can't agree upon? This might come as a surprise to more than a billion people on the planet who don't share those particular beliefs, let alone treat them as "primary reality."

Maybe Brooks can interpret the minds of terrorists (as he proceeds to attempt) better than those of his fellow monotheists, those blindingly oblivious to reality closer at hand.

And so we should listen to what Brooks thinks about what Obama should and shouldn't say, and when the president is "using language to engineer a reaction rather than to tell the truth, which is the definition of propaganda."

Monotheism or the narcissism of terrorists, is that really it? Who knows what Brooks was using his language to engineer, but my reaction is incredulity.

Merchant of death Permalink to this item

Tim Dickinson's lede in his Rolling Stone piece, How the NRA Paved the Way for the Orlando Shooting pretty much sums up where we are today:

"The greatest threat to our homeland security today is the National Rifle Association, a front group for the firearms industry that derails gun-safety measures and perversely profits with each new mass shooting."

One of the dots I didn't have fully-connected is Mitch McConnell's blocking of Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. Never mind Antonin Scalia's supposed "originalism," he can't be resting easily to have Congress jump the shark to screw up the other two branches of government simultaneously, even if he did author the Heller decision that rewrote the concept of the 2nd Amendment.

But following the money always works. Sort the tabulation of the NRA's spending in the 2014 cycle by state, and see that the NRA chipped in more than $400,000 each for McConnell and against McConnell's opponent. McConnell is the NRA's man, bought and paid for.

With McConnell's corrupt leadership, the Senate has abandoned its duty to the Constitution and ceded the power of "advice and consent" to the NRA. So bald-faced, he doesn't feel the need to be subtle about it. "I can't imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame-duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association," McConnell told Fox News' Chris Wallace.

Just can't imagine.

(6-18) Mobridge, on the beach Permalink to this item

Yesterday's ride was the second worst (1st was #1). A big climb right before the Missouri (Oahe Lake) & down into the wind. An excellent view from the plateau and on the way south. It's supposed to get flat now, wind is from the west. The dew was quite heavy last night, soaked tarp and tent on both sides (!) Mobridge is kind of like Manitowoc—too big & too small. The sun woke me for the first time this trip.

Hiddenwood Lake St. Pk. Permalink to this item

Rode back to Mobridge, shopped & ate in the park. Read a bit & as I was leaving ran into 2 stoneys, then a party. Sat in the sunshine and enjoyed the rest of the morning. Left for a leisurely drive here. Got a flat (putting the bead back in) and walked the last mile +. The camp is ok, as long as they don't get $3 for it.

Map of days 13 and 14

[In the satellite view today, there's no evidence of camping or facilities at either of these spots. Maybe there wasn't in '76, either, but "state park" denoted refuge for the night to a lone bicyclist.

I didn't mention making another 100 mile day, that hard ride from Lemmon to Mobridge, but it's in the tallies and the running average. 987 miles total, 75.9/day average for the first 13 days. Then a scant 21 miles the next day, to 1,008 and average down to 72.0.]

17.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

(6-17) Permalink to this item

A red dawn & morning, showers in Bowman. Went off leisurely in the rain. It quit while I was in Hettinger and I had a nice 3 hr break for lunch. 2 [juvenile deliquents] convinced me not to stay. Rode to Lemmon S.D., saw the petrified park and went to the bar. It poured all evening so I just hung out & played foos and met folks. Set up my tent in the park around 1:00 am (well after closing time).

This morning was chilly with strong winds from the north. I've been fighting across so far. 10 miles out of McIntosh and I'll start down.

Map of day 12

[ Morning entry, writing about the previous day, and halfway into what turned out to be my 3rd 100 mile day. Just over the border into state #4. I was anticipating a change of road direction to give me more of a tailwind, but things don't always work out the way you expect. Even though the relief in Google Maps' terrain view has gone from Rocky Mountains to Great Plains, it wasn't yet "flat." It's always something. ]

16.June.16 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Shoot 'em up Permalink to this item

Yesterday, a friend of a friend responded to the idea of non-gun nuts joining the NRA to pull it back to sensibility with the glorious trope that "the right to bear arms is the only amendment that guarantees all the others and ensures the balance of power stays with the people." Because "Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Polpot just to name a few."

"Look at the number of mass shootings by president. There have been 169 during the Obama administration were he pushed through safe spaces and more gun control. The previous 3 presidents averaged 10 each!"

Who knew that some sort of meaningful gun control was pushed through during Obama's terms in office? I did not know that. And from George H. W. Bush in 1989 through Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in 2009, just 30 mass shootings? They all blur together after a while (and, uh, the definition varies, and so on). More than five times as many during Obama's time in office than in the twenty years of the last three presidents?! I pushed back at the dubious statistic and the preposterous claim of causation, and he didn't show much fight in him. "Most gun control is pushed through via hand picked democrats at the state level," he said. And look out, Californians! "Hell there are 11 anti gun laws on the books here in CA that if they go into effect there will be 2.5 million new felons overnight."

Criminologist Frederic Lemieux offers 6 Things Americans Should Know about Mass Shootings. Number one is not a news flash: More guns don’t make you safer. It doesn't go into war zones (of which we've had plenty in the last three decades), but it shows a pie chart of mass shootings by country, and a bar chart of guns per one hundred inhabitants, with a toggle to show the number of mass shootings. The pie chart is dominated by you-know-who. The one-at-a-time bar charts are in reverse alphabetic order (because... that makes the United States number one?).

X-Y plot of mass shootings 1983-2013 vs. guns/100 inhabitants

The nut of it is in the comparison of the data (which are provided in a convenient form on the Scientific American page), so plot them X-Y. First, the other 24 countries, with as many as 6 or 7 mass shootings, and guns per hundred inhabitants ranging from zero to the mid-40s. There's a wide scatter, but the trend in the correlation is up and to the right, as the regression line shows. If more guns made us safer, the slope of the correlation would go the other way.

Now put the United States back in. We have to expand both axes, considerably, given our exceptional numbers. We have about twice the guns per capita as our closest competition (Finland and Switzerland). And ten times the number of mass shootings.

X-Y plot of mass shootings 1983-2013 vs. guns/100 inhabitants

The threat Permalink to this item

It's not easy to connect the dots in any rational way, but this is not about rationality. It's about irrationality, and the emotions that drive the cheers for Donald Trump's demagoguery. His spew of blurts and braggadocio is bad enough—the self-congratulation for being "right" after mass murder in Orlando, my god—but it burbles from a cesspool of xenophobia.

There is nothing in this latest incident of domestic mayhem that is about refugees, from Syria, or anywhere else. The killer was born in New York, just like Trump. In the last eight months, the U.S. resettled about 2,800 Syrian refugees in the United States. That's about one tenth the number resettled in Canada, a country with one tenth the population of the U.S.

Have you heard about the hundred mass shootings in Canada in the last year?

Elizabeth Drew's piece for The New York Review of Books was written before Orlando, but when the nominating contests had run their course.

"It’s by now clear that the presidential election of 2016 is something larger than and apart from just another quadrennial contest for the highest office; it’s a national crisis. The crisis will last as long as there’s a possibility that someone totally unsuited for that office could win it."

The nature of Vichy Republicanism has come into focus as well. Wikipedia has a useful list "as of May 2016," including Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, John Boehner, Dick Cheney, John McCain, Rand Paul, Reince Priebus, and Bobby Jindal. Its etymology overlooks George Rasley's over-the-top fulmination in late 2014, when Congress and Obama had collaborated "to destroy the quality of life for millions of American workers," but never mind that.

Add Mitch McConnell to the list until he can get up on his back legs and do more than just "[say] something negative about Trump in virtually every interview" on his book tour. And yeah, that's right. The Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, a full-time leadership job with a $193,400 a year salary and a million dollar staff has time for a book tour.)

Michael Graham's piece for the Weekly Standard back in March was spot-on, without the need to go past the first paragraph:

"Donald Trump and his supporters contend that the GOP establishment is a bunch of gutless, cowardly weasels who won’t fight for what they believe in. And the establishment is on the verge of proving them right—by supporting Donald Trump."

Here we are. As Marc Johnson describes in penetrating detail, there is something else going on, and we have moved beyond novelty and laugh lines to a legitimate threat to American democracy. The parallel quotes from John Gunther's 1936 piece in Harper's are chilling, indeed "an early draft of the story we are living."

"I’ve been writing about this dangerous man now for months and like many I initially discounted him as a freak show that surely would bloviate himself to pieces. I counted on the principled conservatives who daily watch their movement perverted by this con man to find a means to stop him not merely for the good of their party, but for the good of the country. While calling Trump a classic demagogue, I resisted, until now, what are becoming increasingly common comparisons to totalitarian, authoritarian figures from the darkest pages of 20th Century history."

Read the whole thing, it's well worth the time.

15.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

(6-15) Bowman, N.D. Permalink to this item

June 1976 photo

A very nice climb out of Miles City in the sunshine. Mountainous buttes with many colors of rock, earth & flowers. Downhill ride to the Powder River and 1½ miles up when my rear tire blew. I was figuring today was the day so I bought a tire in Miles City. But I needed a tube so I stuck out me thumb. After a while Smoky pulled up & said he'd take me to Baker if no one else did. Time to dig the cumulus. Well he came back & pulled over a guy with no plates (new car) and asked him to give me a ride! He agreed & we stuffed my rig in the trunk & drove thru more beautiful buttes and had a nice talk. He was a B-42 gunner in WWII & his name? Rip Van Winkle! We went to Baker & I got two tubes and trued my wheel and enjoyed the many pretty girls. Took off @ 5:30 and rode off from the sunset. So far, N.D. ain't been real flat.

[ I'd noticed the split in my back tire's sidewall, and I was ready for it to go, but I failed to anticipate that a literal blowout would leave more than a patch could remedy. (Of course I had a patch kit, but a spare tube hadn't occurred to me.)

That spot a mile and a half up from the Powder River has been etched upon my mind all these years, "Big Sky country" on a beautiful day in June. I could see the road all the way down and across to the other side of the river, and enjoy the thrill whenever a car would approach. Traffic was running about a half dozen thrills an hour. The state trooper was headed west when he first saw me, and pulled over to assess my circumstances, said he'd be back this way in 45 minutes or so. Hitchhiking is pleasant enough on a sunny mid-morning, but "official assurance" of a ride makes it even more so. I loved the idea of the trooper spotting "his mark" some miles away and following him real careful until he was close enough to pull over near (but not too near) me.

I forget what "Rip's" actual given name was (if he even told me), and don't remember as much about the Douglas XB-42 "Mixmaster" as he probably told me. My mileage for the day is noted as "73 + 52/car" and I rolled that half-century boon into my running average, now 74.6/day. ]

Map of day 11

Hot and cold running culture wars Permalink to this item

"Philadelphia Bible Riots" is the heading of one section of the chapter on Anti-Catholicism in Stephen Prothero's 2016 book, Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (Even When They Lose Elections): The Battles That Define America from Jefferson's Heresies to Gay Marriage.

"[V]irtually every American public school in the early nineteenth century taught the Bible not as literature but as truth, and not only as truth but as 'the foutainhead of morality and all good government.'"

The King James Bible was the correct one, until Catholic immigration came to spoil that simple homogeneity. In late 1842 the Dublin-born Bishop wrote a letter to the board of controllers of Philadelphia public schools, "asking that Catholic schoolchildren be allowed to read from the Catholic Bible and that they be excused from class during prayers and the singing of Protestant hymns."

By May of the next year, there was violence. A teenager was shot and killed, and "angry nativists rampaged." On May 8 mobs looted homes and set entire blocks of houses on fire, burned down churches and rectories. More than a dozen were killed in riots around the fourth of July.

Our current political climate seems equally deranged, but with considerably less widespread mob violence. So that's progress. Now we just have the mass shootings to contend with.

Prothero's book is interesting, and going on my reading list momentarily. (I have to take the library's copy back today.)

14.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Turtles all the way down Permalink to this item

Having once been on the hull of an overturned vessel in somewhat dire straits (in my case, in the middle of the biggest part of Lake Pend Oreille, on a small sailboat), this two summers ago story from Tidewater arrested my attention when I came across it just now. (Not sure about the durability of that hash-bang URL; it's a press release from Sept., 2014, "Tidewater Tugs Rescue Boaters in Two Separate Incidents on Columbia & Snake Rivers.") With my emphasis added:

"At approximately 1:15 a.m., Todd Takalo, piloting the Tidewater tug Maverick, spotted a flashing white light in the water. Upon inspection, Mr. Takalo, along with Deck Mechanic Ryan Jones, discovered that the light was coming from an overturned fishing boat with two men on top of the vessel. The Captain, Chris Patnode, who was not on duty at the time, was immediately notified of the situation and quickly joined Ryan Jones on deck to ready man overboard equipment. In 35 mph winds and 4 foot swells, Pilot Todd Takalo navigated the tug as gently as possible over to the vessel in distress. The crew on deck were able to retrieve the two men and pull them aboard the Maverick where they were taken in to the galley to dry off and warm up. The fishermen said they had been stranded in the water on top of their vessel for over 45 minutes. Their fishing boat was unable to be towed or salvaged."

The other story from the same month is about a couple in the 70s, fished out of the Snake River just east of Pasco, Washington, "just as their burning boat slipped beneath the surface." Lost boats, but happy endings.

A singular honor (ACT NOW) Permalink to this item

The Senate Republicans sent me a special message today, with congratulations for having been recommended for a place of honor on the Summer 2016 panels of the Reagan Founders' Wall. Needless to say, this comes as a bit of a surprise. It seems "a prominent conservative leader recommended [me] based on [my] history of supporting Republicans," an even greater surprise.

"Our committee has reserved a space for you, BUT we can only hold onto your space for the next three hours."

Baby Trump Permalink to this item

The Washington Post will of course continue to cover the dishonest and phony Republican candidate, in spite of his snit and "revoking" its press credentials. Executive Editor Martin Baron:

“Donald Trump’s decision to revoke The Washington Post’s press credentials is nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press. When coverage doesn’t correspond to what the candidate wants it to be, then a news organization is banished. The Post will continue to cover Donald Trump as it has all along — honorably, honestly, accurately, energetically and unflinchingly. We’re proud of our coverage, and we’re going to keep at it.”

For its part, Trump's campaign said "Mr. Trump does not mind a bad story, but it has to be honest," which is rather funny, considering his own record of dishonest dealing. Even without credentials for campaign events, the Post's team of reporters and editors writing a book about Trump’s life and business career will still be publishing this summer, so that'll be entertaining. The Post joins a long list of organizations Trump has blacklisted (with bans "erratically enforced and of seemingly arbitrary duration"): Gawker, BuzzFeed, Foreign Policy, Politico, Fusion, Univision, Mother Jones, the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Des Moines Register, the Daily Beast and Huffington Post.

Trump's campaign is nothing if not erratic, and as he put it ("frankly") is "made up of people [who] in many cases — not in all cases — are not good people." Should our collective insanity devolve to the point of electing him president, expect petulance and denial of access to be standard practice. NPR:

[H]e said his approach to the press would stay the same if he were elected to the White House: "Yeah, it is going to be like this. You think I'm going to change? I'm not going to change."

6-14 Miles City Permalink to this item

A bad day with a happy ending. When the day came, it rained. I fooled around in the tent until 10:00 or so, went into town & saw the Rosebud County museum. Lot of old stuff. Ate breakfast, played foosball, cried at the loneliness and the frustration and the rain, and read D.H. Lawrence at the library. It looked like it was clearing, but walking out to the tent, it rained again. When it stopped, I dried and packed and headed east. Another sprinkle on the way out. Forsyth and me don't mix. But then I-94 was smooth and the clouds were thinning. The sun peeked out, lighting me & the buttes. Beautiful gold & red set. Made it to here in the dark with color left in the west and found a sundae, beer & $8 motel (with kitchenettes, no less).

Map of day 10

[ No photo from that lovely sunset, along the one short stretch of the trip where the interstate and US 12 overlapped, following the Yellowstone River. I preferred a road with less concrete, but on the other hand, there wasn't a lot of traffic on a Monday evening in the middle of Montana, and a wide, smooth shoulder was a welcome change from the rough pavement of the previous day. Mostly, I was happy to be rolling again, and to put Forsyth 46 miles behind me. That was my shortest day of the trip, and my latest start: 6 pm.

So much I might have squeezed between the lines if I'd had more journal space. "Lot of old stuff." What D.H. Lawrence? And an $8 motel, those were the good old days. My travel expenses were for food, mostly, and that added up to about $6 a day on average. My big night in Miles City was a comparative binge.

Early Winters Light Dimension #191

My brand-spankin new Early Winters tent, Light Dimension #191 was starting to prove a disappointment out in the middle of Montana in early June. The first tent made with Gore-Tex, the miracle fabric kept the liquid outside while letting water vapor escape, but... those darn leaking seams. Lucky for me, there wasn't a ton of rain along the way, and it did make a lovely, light, easy-to-set-up shelter against bugs and some rain. After the trip, and some seam-sealing, it worked somewhat better for me, and had a pretty good life as a hand-me-down, with three+ months in Mexico, among other adventures. Here it is 31 years later at Larkins Lake in north Idaho, on my first backpacking trip with the two grandkids, and a year before its retirement. ]

13.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

6-13 Forsyth on the Yellowstone Permalink to this item

The ride today was irritable. Started with the still air in my face (after monring rain), but the wind helped a lot later on. I dissipated much of my energy in vibration, and more getting pissed at the "exerciser" pavement. I was amazed that my tires made it whole. Saw a giant spider, a skunk, cactus flowers, and carpets of yellow. Very hilly & it seemed up. The rain missed me from morning to evening, now it falls on my tent. I feel lonely here, the depressing aspects of RV haven & the ride. The Larsens honked & waved, I thought they would stop, but I lunched alone.

Just got a reminder of one of the good things. Been following the RR since... Helena ? Anyway, ever since I saw the red light from the snowplow (6-10) there's been Milw. Road freights going by. 3 or 4 big orange SDs pulling new autos, and all those familiar containers, piggybacks, flats & freerides. 5 so far? Now along the River with I-94.

1976 photo

[ The Larsens must've been the minister and his family I'd spent the night with in Roundup. And "all those familiar containers" were familiar from my working at Walthers Trains while I was in high school, in the print shop, the decal department and the retail store. I was on my own "Milwaukee Road," and happy to be near freight traffic, just like the house I grew up in. "Freeride" was my shorthand for a boxcar, and a few I'd taken. Said snowplow from three days prior pictured, the spot from where I saw a signal showing a train in the adjacent block.

In spite of the rough road, this was another hundred mile ride, thanks to the tailwind. I started tracking my running average per day. 72.2 miles after back-to-back centuries. The best story of the day (and yes, another "one of the good things") was the skunk. After alternating spinning my biggest gear and coasting with the wind for some while, I coasted to a stop in the middle of nowhere to take a break. No traffic. While I stood admiring the view, this skunk comes out of the vegetation on one side of the road and is ambling across the highway, a comfortable distance east of me. But then... a car in the distance was coming at the two of us, and I did one of those story problems about time and distance. This one had the surprise ending of bicyclist by the side of the road getting doused in skunk juice.

But no; Mr. Skunk ambled across the road and off into the weeds before the car got to him, and I proceed on my merry way without incident. ]

Map of day 9

You are now free to fly around the boarding area Permalink to this item

One more thing before I get to to work: this useful Nielsen Norman Group AlertBox article about Computer-Assisted Embarrassment. Computers shouldn't harm us, we all know that from Asimov's First Law of Robotics, even if we also know they can lure us into harming ourselves. (We're supposed to know better.) And as an interface designer, I've been confronted with the first law of interface design, even if I didn't have it boiled down to five short words in bold face: You are not your user.

Among the tweeted comical stories (asking a millenial how the lights work), and not-so-comical (LinkedIn Called Me a White Supremacist), those "awkward phone moments" I've yet to experience, not yet owning one of those awkward phones. I have seen others with them, exchanging photons at the entrance to a jetway while I've still got a piece of paper in my hand, thinking gee that would be convenient to just have a boarding pass on your phone. Until...

"Sometimes mobile boarding passes disappear before you can use them at the airport."

Whaaa?! How often does that happen? "Going back to print" never sounded better.

Advice ranging all the way to bad Permalink to this item

Tammy Duckworth: Isn’t Honesty the Best Policy? Not in everyone's opinion. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups in the financial industry don't want to be held to a fiduciary standard for selling retirement investments because they don't make as much money that way. After the attempt to block the Department of Labor's rule with legislation was stymied by Obama's veto, the industry has now filed suit in a business-friendly jurisdiction in North Texas to accomplish the same thing.

You can just about hear the desperation in the protestation of Ken Bentsen, president and CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association:

“Our members came to the conclusion that this rule was not consistent with where Congress was at, was an overreach, would subject them to tremendous legal liability in an uncalled-for fashion, would do harm to their business model and their clients, that we were left with no other choice but to pursue this action.”

At least some industry groups came out against the lawsuit, but the most precious line from those who don't want to be held to the DOL standard is the one about "expanding access to advice." A fiduciary rule would indeed limit the kinds of advice you could get; the bad kind. Just as it would "do harm" to some "business models." It's not a big surprise that this is "uncalled-for" from the industry. Regulation is such a drag.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was passed in the mid-1970s. Its definition of the scope of fiduciary responsibility did not include IRA and 401(k) accounts because those didn't yet exist. As the Executive Summary puts it:

“Non-fiduciaries may give imprudent and disloyal advice; steer plans and IRA owners to investments based on their own, rather than their customers' financial interests; and act on conflicts of interest in ways that would be prohibited if the same persons were fiduciaries.”

While the industry fights the rule-making (this has been going on since 2010, at least), consumers are losing billions of dollars a year. Give Illinois Congresswoman Duckworth the last word:

“If the fiduciary standard is good enough for medical care, legal advice and accounting, it is good enough for financial retirement advice. We don’t accept less anywhere else in commerce. Why should we accept it from those we trust to protect our retirement savings?”

12.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Maybe if we just pretend it isn't a problem Permalink to this item

Not the only story that could go under this headline today, but one of them. Late last month, reported in the New York Times: Australia, Fearing Fewer Tourists, Has Chapter Taken Out of Climate Report.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has helpfully put it on the web: Australia’s Iconic Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Site at Risk from Global Warming. They didn't host comments for very long, but one day's was enough to collect links to a couple conspiracy theories.

6-12 Roundup Permalink to this item

The wind blew and I hopped on it and rode to Harlowtown (31 mi.) before stopping. Fair weather clouds & 2 mounds of thick grass, undulating, green & silvery. The route was beautiful rangeland, the Crazy Mts. in gloom, hills & draws, rocky canyons, stony bluffs and curious cattle. Such lovely land. Averaged 18.23 mph Harlowtown to here, arr @ 2:40. I could have gone 50 more but the Rev.'s wife corralled me to bed & shower, free eats & western hospitality. 102 miles!! Free pie, too.

Map of day #8

[ The beautiful side canyon where I spent the night was pretty much out of the wind. Back north to the highway, and out of the canyon, there was a heck of a post-front wind going my way, and blowing me along the flat-bottomed path of the meandering Musselshell River. My first "century," with camping gear, and done before 3 o'clock?! Stopping for a celebratory beer put a dent in my get-up-and-go, and just after I came out of the bar, blinking in the afternoon sun and wondering whether to ride further or what, this nice lady chatted me up and offered a place to stay for the night. It was nice to enjoy some comforts of civilization after my first week on the road, 550 miles from home. Just a bit awkward to be a stranger dropping in on dinner with a family of five, but a wonderful bit of charity on their part. ]

11.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

6-11 Spring Creek Canyon Permalink to this item

is beautiful. A small clear stream running in a steep canyon; one wall sheer & craggy bluffs, the other grassy but still steep. A climb to the west ridge and a panorama of man as a yellow dot in the vastness. Much orange & red in the rocks, lichens.

Snippet from the original journal

The drive today was fine, up & thru the Big Belts to an alpine meadow. Still snow on the Crazies & there. The sky filled with giant cumuli and chill. Across the meadow & down a fine hill to the base, cross wind to White Sulfur Springs. Burger deluxe & groceries & blueberry pie. Peddled around & over the side of the Castle Mts. Big rock towers that look like fearsome battlements in a field of pine. A pleasant sojuorn to the Checkerboard bar. Very nice, friendly people. Beautiful old bar/dance hall. A free beer. Stopped at a farm house for info & the "boy" rode his MT-250 up for a chat. Took a test drive, much too short. Wish I had one. I followed (or cut across) the big cold front today, blown by a stiff breeze. The cumulus stacked up & joined the nimbus in the east, watched a shower dry up behind & followed one out after Checkerboard.

Map of week #1

[ Seven days and 448 miles down the road. Looks like I was actually in "Copper Creek's" canyon, with Spring Creek the one on the north side of the highway. What's in a name? ]

Fabulations and fabrications Permalink to this item

There's an excellent, lengthy opinion piece by someone named Michael Arnovitz that I saw thanks to a share of the public Facebook posting. It deserves wider circulation, imho. He starts with a quote from an article Henry Louis Gates wrote 20 years ago (!) for The New Yorker, Hating Hillary. Why was it that we started hating Hillary, exactly? First Ladies are supposed to smile for posed photos and otherwise keep out of the news, or at least keep their initiatives carefully limited. Gates reminds us that Clinton "is plainly not the first wife of a President to suffer such treatment."

And... there was William Safire, a man who loved the nuance and power of language, and who was happy to employ it for the right price. He put "nattering nabobs of negativity" on Spiro T. Agnew's lips, and must have surely chortled at the delicious irony of his negativity being embedded into the Zeitgeist as an attack on others. But that was a joke line, given that we don't know what the hell a "nabob" is. The durable zinger he put on Clinton had just been inked when Gates was writing. Safire declared her to be a "congenital liar."

Gates' piece is replete with tales of reading others' motives as if such inferences were plain fact, revealed by scraping through sedimentary layers of hearsay. William Kristol carefully measuring liberal hypocrisy. Peggy Noonan on grating effects. Marilyn Quayle assessing Hillary Clinton's misunderstanding of the "traditional role" she was supposed to fulfill.

"And yet the Hillary problem does have the air of something slightly factitious," Gates observed. And yet, the air, slightly. You think? And it was all 20 years ago, during her husband's campaign for re-election, granted, but when her political résumé was still largely unwritten.

More recently, people who don't like her politics from both ends of the spectrum have her covering the gamut from Soviet Chief of Ideology to a not-very-undercover shill for Wall Street, agreeing that she must be what Safire imagined she was, never mind any objective consideration of facts. As if Safire had been reporting rather than on a snarling partisan attack. Arnovitz writes,

"[A]s far as I can tell this short essay was the birth of the “Hillary is a Liar” meme. Now to be clear, most conservatives already strongly disliked her. They had been upset with her for some time because she had refused to play the traditional First Lady role. And they were horrified by her attempt to champion Universal Health coverage. But if you look for the actual reasons people didn’t like her back at that time, you won’t see ongoing accusations of her being “crooked” or a “liar”. Instead, the most common opinion seemed to be that she was a self-righteous leftist who considered anyone with other views to be morally inferior. In short, the prevailing anti-Hillary accusation was not that she was unrelentingly dishonest, but that she was just intolerably smug.

"After the Safire piece however, this all changed. Republicans, who learned from Nixon never to let a good propaganda opportunity pass if they could help it, repeated the accusations of mendacity non-stop to anyone who would broadcast or print them. ..."

Who were legion. The candidate the slipped through the Republicans wicket this time has a well-chronicled history of lying. He's made businesses out of it. It's "his hallmark," as Mitt Romney put it. A stack of those businesses built on lies have collapsed, leaving creditors and low-level employees holding the bag while he pads his own pocket. Never a personal bankruptcy, mind you, it's always been someone else's problem. Elizabeth Warren sums him up:

"Donald Trump is a loud, nasty, thin-skinned fraud who has never risked anything for anyone and who serves no one but himself."

A real reporter, Jill Abramson, one who has "launched investigations into her business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage," going back to Whitewater, concluded that " Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy."

It's a pretty straightforward choice on that dimension, even before we start in on temperament, competence, knowledge, and experience. If any of those might be needed for the job.

10.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The photographic record Permalink to this item

Dug out the old box of memorabilia, and I'll sort what I've got into the proper days when I assemble the story into one or more standalone pages. There are so few—less than one a day, on average—and the quality of reshooting old, badly stored prints means you haven't missed a whole lot. On day one, I took a whopping three photos: at the very start, before going down the first grade into the first town (Troy), and of an interesting house and steep yardfull of wildflowers in the second, Kendrick.

Three more up and over Lolo Pass (in two days), three of the rest of Montana, and a handful around the Mississippi River are about it. Here's my bike, the Raleigh Grand Prix I bought for $100 when I was 15, loaded and ready to go with its center of gravity riding high, just outside the trailer. The cheap (but good) Brooks saddle, Weinmann center-pull brakes, 52-32(?) chainrings, 14-28 cog, Simplex derailleurs, shiny high flange hubs, Pletscher rack. Tent, sleeping bag, foam pad, a small bag of clothes on the back, tools and the heaviest stuff I could get in a handlebar bag in the front, one water bottle. Enough food to get to the next grocery store or café. If it was over 25 pounds of load, not by much. That's a wee bit of Paradise Ridge visible under the porch roof at upper left.

Bike trip start, June 5, 1976

6-10 The Big Belt Mountains Permalink to this item

Nice downhill to a leisurely cruise thru Helena. The people did not seem too friendly. East of that got a taste of the big flat. A climb to Winston & a long grade down to Townsend on the Missouri R. Did 34 miles in 2 hrs. 5 min. A root beer float for the climb out & stopped to see what the weather would do. Drove to the Deep Creek Bar, for a pleasant stay out of the heat, a coke, a pizza, a beer, some foos & pool. 4 miles up in the hills still by Deep Creek. The bugs are obnoxious, won't let you rest. Cutter's works great, tho. Wind has turned around & it is looking like a thunderstorm soon. I await the coolness.

Map of day #6, across the Missouri and to the Big Belts

[ I ended up averaging 70 miles a day over the whole trip, so covering half a day's ride in just over 2 hours was a thing. My journal entries are all pretty terse, but even so, I have no memory to call up for many of the details recorded. I remember the mountain view... of the Big Belts ahead of me (I think it was), gray slate with angular, blocky fracturing, against a big sky, peppered with clouds and the unknown road ahead. A mountain range I'd never heard of, and I was certain I would climb up, over and through it to the next thing I'd never seen.

In the narrow, unused bit of margin of the engagement calendar's gutter, I tracked the phase of the moon (waxing half on June 5) and my cumulative mileage, as figured from my paper maps. 72, 135, 187, 260, 333, 394 miles to some unmarked spot up a side drainage on June 10. Not counting excursions off the route to find a camp spot, such as this one. ]

9.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

6-9 PORCUPINE CAMPGROUND Permalink to this item

After it stopped, went & had 3 beers at the neighbors' and a nice chat. Into boogie music. I waited to get up till the sun came out of the morning fog. Talking to the kids (on BMX) and some nice hills on Montana 200. Turned to 271-272 and headed across the intermoutain plain. Caught a sonic boom that was incredible. Sounded like dynamite over the next ridge. Beautiful view, mountain-enclosed farmland. Snowy Bitterroots behind, Rockies around. Worked my way to the reservoir & over to the rolling ranchland. Lots of clouds but none hid the sun. No trees. Uphill. Burned my hands, nose (always) & upper lip. The rain was developing ahead and I unexpectedly made the crest & flew to Avon. Got a good shower—and beat it down the hill. Junk fooded out at the general mercantile/post office while the storm went thru. Raced to Elliston on a shitty HWY 12 (worse than earth on 272) and decided to go up. When it started to drip I went to a red & black ant grove then Pearl's Sam White bar. Chatted w/2 architects in the bar while the leaky awning soaked my bars and front bag. Left in wet & rain. Stopped at the last house before the climb and put my bike in the incredibly cluttered shed & talked with [the owner] till the sun shone & the rain stopped. A hard-working jack of all who wants to move to Wis... or W.Va. (Been there, and National Geographic last night). Almost heaven. The grade was good & steady up. Rough and steep this side. Get to drop down into Helena tomorrow.

Map of day #5

[ I searched up "Porcupine Campground" with Google Maps, and landed on a horseshoe bend of US 12 where it crosses Little Porcupine Creek, past Frontier Town and Forest Heights, but no sign of a campground in the "Earth" view. No other memory of the place springs to mind to help me narrow it down, 40 years on. ]

8.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Quid pro quo Permalink to this item

Would you kiss Donald Trump's ass for $25,000? I would not. Maybe I have a (higher) price, but it's hard to imagine. The question comes to mind from this quote in the Talking Points Memo bombshell, Florida AG Asked Trump for Donation Before Nixing Trump U Lawsuit:

"When I want something I get it," the presumptive Republican nominee said at an Iowa rally in January. "When I call, they kiss my ass. It's true."

But that's just the local color. The punchline is in the lede:

"Florida's attorney general personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.

"The new disclosure from Attorney General Pam Bondi's spokesman to The Associated Press on Monday provides additional details around the unusual circumstances of Trump's $25,000 donation to Bondi. After the money came in, Bondi's office nixed suing Trump."

6-8 BLACKFOOT RIVER Permalink to this item

What a day! Headwinds made me work down to Lolo where I had an exquisite breakfast topped off by banana creme pie. My oh my. After I digested that, a quick ride to & thru Missoula & on up the Blackfoot—the natives' path over the divide and to the plains. The westerlies started finally and it seemed easier than uphill. When I saw thunderstorms brewing to the south, I pulled in for a coke outside Potomac. It looked like it was going to slide so I went on to the roundup where I waited out a sprinkle, left w/the sun & showers. Didn't get far till a turkey trap caught me for an ice cream cone. I rested up and some yayhoo in a Cadillac said "yer gonna get wet. All the way to Lincoln." So I waited & watched the storms—looked good where I was going but I waited. Some fellas coming west pulled in, said the road was good yet & pointed out that the lightning show in the hills to the NW was coming at me, not going away. I raced off & made it here (3 miles?) and set up in a jiffy. Just beat the wet that is doing it still. Some really fine fireworks. Starting to get my touring legs... the rain held me to 73 today.

Map of day 4

7.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

6-8 LOLO HOT SPRINGS Permalink to this item

Felt pretty lazy yesterday, but Lochsa Lodge was 7 miles closer than I'd figured. Had a great lunch (w/hot peach pie à la mode) and struck out for the pass around 2:30. It wasn't half as bad as I expected only walked about 1½ miles of it. Nothing like the Kendrick grade. The ride down was hampered by headwinds, too. Some nice lightning and thunder back in the hills—went around me mostly. A few beers & sat out in a sprinkle with a new friend, Phil. Big rocks like Devils Lake [Wisconsin] only bigger and smoother, rounded. Slept above one in my hammock—dewey bag. The morning was moist & foggy but now it has mostly burned off. On to Missoula.

[ Day #3, June 7, saw me over the top of the first geographic obstacle, Lolo Pass and the Bitterroot mountains along the Idaho-Montana border. As noted, riding the Palouse roller coaster hills made a harder day, but a mile and a half is a long walk pushing a loaded bike. It's the last walking up a grade I remember on the trip. ]

Somewhere—but not in the run of the journal—I wrote down the recipe for "Lolo Pass-Around," the dinner that Phil and I collaborated on, with our pooled food resources. It had some beef, potatoes, apples, onions and I'll let you know what else if I find it. Fried up in a cast iron pan over a camp fire, it was delicious. ]

Map of day #3, Greenflat to Lolo Hot Springs

6.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

6-6 GREEN FLAT CAMPGROUND #11 Permalink to this item

Couldn't find Fred last nite so I headed upriver ½ mile or so to a "picnic pulloff." It offered a nice site on the ledge by the river. Set up camp & dug the sunset behind the canyon walls over the middle fork of the Clearwater. Asleep before dark until midnite (?) when a horn signaled the beginning of the party. Nez Perces till dawn. One drunk son of a bitch came down and managed to step on every corner of my tent. He got a load of wood & caught the rope in back. Thought he was going to rip it sure but it came thru all right. He had the nerve to say he was a member of the noblest tribe... When I was drying the dew off in the cold, feeble morning sun some friendlier all-nighters stopped in to chat. Gave me some good edible roots. As I rode the pollen in the air was blowing my head off and I figured it was the roots. Gave them to some bikers. The route today was heavenly... The mighty Clearwater & then the Lochsa. The Lochsa never quiets down... Boiling frothy torrents fighting up & down, cascading the crystal water over giant boulders. Cool refreshment. Going by in a car you can only sense it, this way you experience the Tao, the unnameable. And wild flowers! Every color of the rainbow and a dozen more. Towering, pine covered canyon walls with gigantic stone outcrops. The hiway is almost excusable. Plenty of nice campgrounds and picnic spots. I thought my saddle sores would limit my travel today but 63 miles was the limit of my energy. After it sprinkled on me outside of Syringa it cleared up, got hot & a rude wind blew down the canyon. Now it's starting to rain. Met a Muscovite lady who works for Fish & Game. Susie Valder. Pretty and sweet.

Map of day #2's ride

[ Whatever happened to Susie? We never met again. My takeaway lesson from day #1 was be careful where you camp on the weekend. ]

5.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

On the Palouse again Permalink to this item

Nice day for a bike ride, and nice day to take a slightly better camera than I had on the cross-country ride for a spin. Pretty sure that would have been my trusty Instamatic with the execrable 110 format cartridge film. At least I was past the point of covering the corner of the image with my finger. At some point I'll dig out the old prints and see what I can make of them, but for today, this, the hills south of Paradise Ridge.

June 5, 2016

6-5 KAMIAH, IDAHO Permalink to this item

Made 70 miles first day out. Wasn't quite "all downhill." 9% grade down into Kendrick scary but what a gas. The road out went up & up. Walked most of it—the top was 100% frustration—leveled a little but kept going up in roller coaster Palouse hiway. Stopped for lunch before Southwick. I kept waiting for the drop-off. Up & over another ridge & another—finally HILL sign. The road along the Clearwater was great. Uphill but 9th and 10th gear—my kind of grade. After 4 or 5 stops got to Kamiah & had a beer, looked for Fred [a friend from the dorm]. Nice loose town. Went to his house but ?. Had dinner at the first eatery on the way. Drive-in. One of the waitresses gave it to me for free. Smiled and shrugged. I was so freaked I almost walked out w/o my pack. Forgot a tip too damnit.

Moscow to Kamiah

[ I remember the endless climb and the big roller coaster hills between Kendrick and Orofino, but didn't do justice to the experience of coming off American Ridge at 2600' and the nearly straight, 9% shot down to 1200' in town. (Just that one right-angle turn with 100' to go.) My 20 or 25 pounds of gear was mostly piled on top of a Pletscher rack, with the heaviest things I could fit into a handlebar bag for a lame attempt at front/rear balance. No panniers. When I hit the 9% part and terminal velocity, I figured I could sit up and enjoy the ride, and took my hands off the handlebars as I did. If you have yet to experience "high speed shimmy," well, you have something to look forward to. Hands back where they belong, the rest went just fine, and did not try that no-handed on a downgrade again for a long time afterward.

Looking back after the trip was over, this first day would stand out as the hardest ride of the fifty, from the east edge of Moscow, to Troy, Kendrick, Orofino, and Kamiah. Knowing the Potlatch River a little better now, it's obvious I should have turned right—southeast!—at Kendrick and followed the river down to the Clearwater, and let the up-canyon afternoon wind scoot me along that much sooner. The ten extra miles would have been ten times easier than plying the Palouse for 20 miles. ]

4.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

6-4 1976 Permalink to this item

199 yrs. & 11 months ELATION ANTICIPATION UPS does it in 20 hrs! Tested the road to Troy sunny morning 1:50 for 19 miles.

[ How I planned my route: with a AAA map of the Western U.S. opened up in front of me, I noticed that US 12 was pretty much a straight shot from near where I was starting to near where I was going. I'd just cut across to meet it at Orofino, and follow it to Madison, and make my way from there to Milwaukee on familiar backroads.

One little shortcut, Helena to White Sulfur Springs on Montana highways, since US 12 did a big loop to the south, and straighter must be better, right? ]

Most of the time Permalink to this item

Mosier, Oregon, is a tiny town on a big bend in the Columbia River, tucked between Hood River and The Dalles, where the river's Gorge cuts through the Cascade mountains. The region is impossibly scenic, and the way through is a "transportation corridor," as you'll see from the interstate highway on the Oregon side. Or on the narrow, twisting highways on the Washington side. Or on a train on either side. Or on a boat, barge, or sailboard.

You may be hearing Mosier's name for the first time thanks to a train full of North Dakota Bakken crude derailing and catching on fire. A couple of items in the Oregonian's Q&A on train safety:

From 2008 to 2013, the amount of oil being transported by rail went up by 4,000%, give or take, from fewer than 10,000 carloads to 400,000.

Is it safe? "Most of the time." Even the vast majority of the time, say 99.9977%. That remainder boils down to catastrophes of varying proportions in Quebec, Alabama, Virginia, West Virginia, North Dakota, and now Oregon.

This is going to change the conversation about the proposal for the country's largest oil train terminal to be built in Vancouver, Washington, across from Portland, not too far down river from Mosier. The news doesn't say how much (if any) BNSF has been shipping (through Washington), but mentioned two trains a week for UP (whose tracks are in Oregon). There could be four oil trains a day feeding the Vancouver terminal.

The probably good news is that the cars in the train that just derailed were the newer, safer, CPC-1232 design, and not the older, DOT-111s that were flagged as a safety risk by the NTSB 25 years ago. Rail cars are generally durable goods. Not such good news is that the CPC-1232 doesn't solve the inherent problem.

Let's hope the fire and damage is well-contained this time, and plan for how we'll deal with the next derailment, and the one after that.

Update: "Mosier really dodged a bullet"

3.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It hardly seems real Permalink to this item

It hardly seems like these things could be happening, but the GOP state convention is on right now, and... they've managed to firmly reject a resolution denouncing bigotry, racism and xenophobia, because... such a denuciation would violate First Amendment rights. Somehow. Alrighty then.

Anything else? Funny you should ask: Moar Bible in public schools.

Idaho Republicans (and the rest of us) were better off when they couldn't figure out how to work up a quorum at their convention, or how to do anything, back in 2014.

As luck would have it, when I picked up a book at the library the other day, I scanned the new books shelves for interesting stuff and spotted Stephen Prothero's longer-than-a-tweet title, Why Liberals Win (even when they lose elections): The battles that define America from Jefferson's Heresies to Gay Marriage. What better moment to switch the "reading/recently read" featured book from Nancy Langsdon's Where Land and Water Meet, centered in Harney Co., to the wider picture of the country as a whole. From the introduction:

"[C]hurch historian George Marsden famously defined a fundamentalist as 'an evangelical who is angry about something.' Culture warriors are citizens who are angry about something. What sets them off is the decline of American culture and evildoers who in their view are responsible for it. ...

"The real combatants in America's culture wars are conservatives and liberals. Of course, the meanings of these terms are not stable over time. Liberalism has cycled thorugh many incarnations in American life: a laissez-faire Enlightenment liberalism wary of state power and zealous for individual liberty (see Thomas Jefferson); a progressive liberalism intent on using state power to tame the ill effects of industrial capitalism (see Franklin Delano Roosevelt); and a postwar liberalism focused on individual rights and equality (see Barack Obama). Conservatism, too, has shape-shifted, taking its stand both for and against the national parks, the Equal Rights Amendment, and Romneycare/Obamacare, depending on which conservative principles were being emphasized (or overlooked) at the time. Compounding this problem is the fact that liberals and conservatives have traditionally defined themselves in contrast to each other, so when liberals shift on a particular policy (or principle), conservatives often adjust in turn."

2.June.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

(Kicking off the 40-years ago trip journal. Almost ready.)

Departure t minus 3 days Permalink to this item

Sort of a waiting period. Planning, outfitting, waiting for the tent. July 4 looks far off and fast riding. The sun finally came out in a blue sky today. 6:00 am decided to get out in it. Road to town, thru, fixing my chain now & then (backwards reassembly). 1/2 way up the Moscow Mt. Ridge climb I hopped on & rode to the top w/JP out on his 47 mile constitutional. He showed me how to go uphill standing—using gravity a little. Well I flew down the back & muscled up. Early morning Moscow shopping. Vegetated most of the day, here at the trailer. Rode the backroad while cooking stew. Don (& I) took the washer apart. The garden has lain wet & uncleared.

[ Haven't remembered Don who, but he must've rented the trailer from me over the summer while I was on the road. This was just after I bought it and moved out of Targhee Hall on campus. "JP" in this entry couldn't have been Johnny Parkins, the namesake of J.P.'s Bike Shop who I would meet 3½ years later, after he bought the shop he'd sold to whats-his-name back, and hired me to run it, starting the winter of '78-79, after I finished my first Bachelors degree. This not-JP proprietor of J.P.'s Bike Shop was tall and skinny and fit, and I was mighty impressed by someone who could ride the 47 mile Moscow-Palouse-Pullman loop before work. A few years later, I did it myself—once—with casual aplomb. ]

It's June! Permanent URL to this day's entry

A fine exhortation Permalink to this item

It's more of a Facebook thing, but it works in the wider world of blogs, and lord knows, Twitter could use some civilizing. I had yet another political post all finely crafted to start the month, when I read this, from one of my cousins:

I challenge all of my friends to post something real from their own lives every day for one week. No sharing of previously shared, fake, and engineered memes designed to elicit some sort of emotional response from the masses. There's an awful lot of, "I communicate my feelings for something I want to be true, or I'm pissed off about something, or I want you to know how smart I am so I do quizzes to show you how Facebook algorithms rate me as a person", bullshit floating around. Be a real person, and be the real you. That's why we're all friends after all, right? Put your own opinion, your own event, your own accomplishment. I'll follow you, and support you. This isn't another one of those, "Copy, paste, and post 21st century chain letters" that call you out for being a tool. This is me, calling you out to NOT be a tool, and quit letting the social engineers dictate how people perceive you. Be unapologetic for who you are. You were made that way, and a product of your lives. You are not the products of something contrived by people you've never met, or stories you don't know the whole truth about.

So, instead of the Spy vs. Spy thing, let me highlight a column by local Rabbi Dan Fink, which ran in his religion column in the Idaho Statesman on Saturday. With the headline they gave it, but in the more durable (and less ad-laden) hosting on his blog: Transgender people likely victims in bathrooms, not perpetrators. He quotes a friend of his who knows from personal experience:

“No one is more concerned about privacy in bathrooms than a transgender person. And no one is more concerned with safety in restrooms either. Transgender people are already common victims of violence in and around restrooms and this recent panic makes it worse. Most of us just try to fit in and be unobtrusive. Go in, do our business, wash hands, leave quickly. Many of us are terrified already because we know that the stakes are high....”

Imagine the stakes being high for something as ordinary as using a public toilet. As the rabbi says, "Surely we can do better than this."


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007